Herbal Medicine In Cancer Treatment

Source: cancer.gov

Cancer is seemingly becoming more common nowadays. Cancer was once a rare disease and its incidence would often result in a feature or coverage in the local news or newspaper. However, this is not the case today. Cancer is much closer to home; some of us have family members with cancer.

Dealing with cancer usually entails psychological, emotional and financial distress not only to the patients but only to the family system. However, despite this higher incidence of cancer, the only consolation is that numerous studies and research are directed in discovering new cure and treatment management for cancer. Also, treatments nowadays are more accessible as evidenced by the proliferation of cancer units and cancer center hospitals. Moreover, pharmaceutical companies and insurance plans offer discounts, co-pays, and flexible payment schemes.

Despite the advancement of modern medicine in cancer care and treatment, it is no way near the solution of completely curing the disease. For instance, remissions are possible but re-occurrence is also a high probability. Numerous studies also show that modern lifestyle and its stresses are a huge factor in the proliferation of malignant tumors. Chemotherapy despite its integral role in cancer modality, it is highly cytotoxic and can possibly cause secondary tumors. Radiation exposure is both a cure and a possible risk factor in malignant tumor development. Thus, others may opt and seek for alternative medicine option while some incorporate complementary eastern medicine.


Traditional Chinese Medicine is a wide range of medicinal practices that share similar concepts which have been developed in China based on a tradition for more than 2,000 years. These practices include qi dong, herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage, and diet therapy. Herbal medicine is defined as the use of plants or mixture of plant extracts to promote wellness and cure illnesses. Its aim is to restore the ability of the physical body to heal, protect and regulate one’s self. It takes on the holistic approach that includes physical, mental and emotional well-being. Herbal medicine is also known as botanical medicine or phytomedicine.

Source: mskcc.org

Modern pharmaceutical products are actually derived from plants, however, herbalists don’t isolate a specific substance from the plants & herbs. They believe that remedy is due to the chemical combination of the whole plant and mixtures of plants, not just particular active ingredient. Chinese herbal medicine is part of a whole system of traditional Chinese medicine and it utilizes plants according to its effect on a particular part of the body or energy channel. Practitioners use different parts of the plants like roots, flowers, seeds, stems and produce it as tonics, teas, powders, tinctures or capsules.


According to studies, it has shown that almost 60% of people with cancer take herbal supplements as complementary to conventional cancer treatments. Based on 2014 study in the UK, the survey showed that people with cancer use herbal medicines to gain more control and some responsibility for their treatment. Also, they felt that this therapy will not cause side effects.


The majority of the population assume that herbal supplements that are marketed as natural or herbal would mean it is safe for intake. However, these herbal medications might result in serious and dangerous side effects especially to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. American Journal of Clinical Oncology published a review that states the garlic, gingko, ginseng, kava, ginseng & St. John’s Wort can interact with cancer treatment. Other than that, US National Cancer Institute also suggested that some of these supplements can affect chemotherapeutic drug absorption rate. For instance, it was found out that St. John’s Wort can speed the release of Imatinib (Glivec) from the body. Moreover, some herbs & plants concoction can cause light sensitivity which is exacerbated side effects of radiation therapy.

Source: reference.medscape.com


Eastern Medicine has been around for a long time and it addresses holistically the problems of the individual while Western Medicine offers treatment and management that is evidence-based against lifestyle related and infectious diseases. Both these approaches have its pros and cons; thus, complementary medicine with the utilization of both approaches is seen as the best combination in order to give the best possible care to the patients.

Cancer patients also require psychological support along the way. BetterHelp is a good online resource for support and guidance.

Share Button